Sox Drawer: How to overcome the Twins

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Sox Drawer: How to overcome the Twins

Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011
Posted 5:54 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz - Minnesota is a lovely state, 12th largest in the U.S., and the original homes of Bob Dylan, Prince and Winona Ryder; not to mention countless moose, elk, bears, ducks, geese, fish, and prairie dogs.

But bring up its baseball team to any warm-blooded White Sox fan, and you will hear John Q. South Sider describe a dark, grisly place - a squad notorious for getting under your skin, quietly and gradually twisting itself around your arteries and large intestine, and staying there for about a decade.

Like cigarettes and alcohol, the Minnesota Twins can be hazardous to your health.

Especially last year, which might have been the equivalent of chain smoking a shelf of Marlboros and drinking a full keg of beer.

We were 5-13 against them, something like that. Matt Thornton remembers way too accurately. They beat us. They had a better team last year. They beat us up. They were the difference in us winning the division last year.

So true. And the Twins did it without their best power hitter, Justin Morneau, for most of the season (concussion) and closer Joe Nathan for all of it (elbow surgery).

But it wasnt a shock to the White Sox. Theyve seen it all before.

No matter who they lose, or go down with injury, they always have guys who step in and fill their spots, Mark Buehrle said. They lose one of the best closers in baseball last year and everyone thinks, There goes their chances. Its going to be us or Detroit. And the next thing you know, they still win the division.

I ask Buehrle how much he detests the Twins, and to put a number on it between 1 and 10. I thought hed say 11, but got an answer I wasnt expecting.

I dont want to put a number on it. Theyre obviously our biggest division rival and theyre the team thats there every year. But thats one of the most respected teams I have for in the league.

Seriously?

A lot of those guys I enjoy playing against. Off the field I like talking to those guys. (Jim) Thome is over there now and says theyre great guys. Theyre not a dirty team, they play baseball right. So theres a lot about the Twins organization that Im a fan of.

And therein lies the problem. The Twins, despite their recent domination over the Sox (winning the Central Division in six of the last nine years) are just too nice for the Sox to hate.

Its like despising a puppy dog or a kitten. They cant do it.

Name a bad guy on the Twins. Think, think, think. There isnt one.

Yeah, Joe Mauer can be annoying for making 35 trips to the pitchers mound, Morneau never cracks a smile, and Jason Kubel is legally obligated to hit a homer off the Sox in every game for the rest of his life, but under that Twins uniform theyre all wholesome, down-to-earth good people. Not a bad apple in there. Having Thome, one of the most gentle, good-hearted human beings on the planet, certainly isnt helping.

But something has to change.

Yes, the White Sox can praise and admire the Twins if they want, but after the drubbing they took last year, its time to keep those compliments to a minimum - or something close to never. You dont hear the Yankees and Red Sox talk in such a glowing way about each other. It just doesnt happen.

Since the White Sox couldnt beat em in 2010, applaud Kenny Williams for going out and atleast trying to sign em.

Hello, Jesse Crain!

If there was a White Sox killer on the Twins, Crain could often be seen holding a baseball and tomorrows obituary. In 49 career innings against the Sox, Crains ERA is 1.45. And last season? Forget about it, the Sox didnt have a chance. In 10 13 innings, Crain gave up three hits, no runs, and had 10 strikeouts.

No surprise Williams swooped in and gave Crain a three-year, 13-million dollar contract.

So Jesse, mi compadre, now that youve joined forces with the White Sox, whats the secret? How have the Twins been able to beat the Sox so many times over the years?

Its just one of those things where we were playing well and we had their number for a while, Crain said. We could go out there and never feel like we were out of it, and just play hard. Hopefully that switches this year.

Crain had three or four teams in hot pursuit of him, including the Red Sox who eventually signed Bobby Jenks. The White Sox entered the picture at the last minute, completing the deal in about 24 hours. Getting a three-year contract played a big part in Crain coming to Chicago, but so did something else.

After they signed Adam Dunn, they already signed (Paul) Konerko and (A.J.) Pierzynski, I knew they were going to have a great team, and Ive played against them for so long that I know that, Crain said. I know how well were going to do, so that was a huge thing. I want to be apart of a team that has a chance to win.

Take that Minnesota.

And maybe the White Sox can take a cue from John Danks, the last Sox pitcher to beat the Twins in a big game, The Blackout of 2008.

We respect the heck out of them, Danks said. But I think we kind of need to lose a little bit of respect and go out there and beat them up a little bit.

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."

Carlos Rodon slated for MRI, could start season on disabled list with bicep tightness

Carlos Rodon slated for MRI, could start season on disabled list with bicep tightness

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Carlos Rodon has been scratched from Friday’s start with tightness in his upper left bicep and it could land him on the disabled list to start the 2017 season.

Though the development came as a surprise, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said that the team’s initial exam of their third-year starter was “positive” because they don’t believe he has any structural damage. But the White Sox intend to be extremely cautious with Rodon, who was headed for an MRI on Friday instead of the mound and is also likely to receive a second opinion early next week.

Rodon had been scheduled to face the Oakland A’s at Mesa, Ariz.

“We’re going to err on the side of caution here, even if it winds up costing him his first couple starts because we’re slowing down the schedule now by scratching him,” Hahn said.

“It’s too early to speculate how long we’re going to be without Carlos. I hate to speculate, but since we are slowing down his schedule by having him miss the start today, the odds are probably that he starts the season on the DL. But again we’ll know more after he takes his further exams.”

Both Hahn and White Sox manager Rick Renteria admit they’ve been caught off-guard by the sequence of events. Rodon informed the White Sox he felt some tightness in his bicep on Thursday, which led to an internal examination. But it was only Wednesday when Rodon said he felt great following a Tuesday bullpen session and asked about the possibility of his first regular season start being moved up. Rodon, who had been online to make his first start on April 8, had also responded well in the aftermath of striking out five batters over four scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut at Tempe, Ariz. on Sunday.

“As far as we know right now he’s OK,” Renteria said. “From the physical, clinical tests it seems like he’s fine, but obviously he’s going to get checked up. He still wanted to pitch. I think that even talking to him yesterday or two days ago, he was feeling great. For all of us it’s a little bit of a surprise.”

Rodon requested to make his start against Oakland after the initial exam, but the team declined and opted for an MRI.

With the intent of helping him avoid the fatigue he experienced last summer and also reaching the 200-inning mark this season, the White Sox took a slow approach with Rodon this spring. Similar to how they handled Chris Sale last spring, much of Rodon’s work this February and March on back fields and in simulated games.

Rodon -- who went 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA in 28 starts last season, striking out 168 batters in 165 innings -- finally debuted in the Cactus League on Sunday and flourished. Though his slow start drew some suspicion along the way as to whether or not Rodon was healthy, Hahn said his bicep issue is a total coincidence.

“I don't know if ironic is the right word, but we obviously tried to come up with a plan to keep him healthy for the long term and toward the end of this plan he expressed this discomfort yesterday,” Hahn said. “Again, he was feeling great, he was saying, with how he was coming along, with the program we had set up. Sometimes you make plans and the baseball gods laugh.”

While it’s too early to know how the length of Rodon’s absence, the White Sox have begun to develop contingency plans. The team has a few days off in April that could help them navigate through the issue, primarily on April 4 and April 10. Rodon originally was scheduled to pitch in the team’s fifth game, an April 8 home contest against Minnesota.

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Hahn suggested that despite the uncertainty he knows one tactic he won’t use is call upon one of the team’s top prospects. Reynaldo Lopez is close to major league ready and Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer have also already each accrued service time. But Hahn wants to avoid a taxi situation with frequent trips back and forth to the minor leagues.

He listed Saturday’s starter Dylan Covey and minor leaguers David Holmberg and Tyler Danish as among the possible replacements for Rodon.

“Our intention is to not have any player in Chicago simply because there’s a need in Chicago,” Hahn said. “It’s because they’ve answered all the questions that they have to answer developmentally at the minor league level and are ready for further development in Chicago. This is particularly true in the situation where it could just be a spot start or a few starts. None of us are inclined to potentially derail anyone’s development by moving them up and down, up and down. Our young pitchers, when the time comes for them to come to Chicago, will be guaranteed to get the ball every fifth day. We don’t have a specific plan for where it goes with Carlos, we need further examination and studies. And we don’t have a plan for how we’ll fill the void if one is created.”